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After a months-long search for a new permanent executive director, the Greenwood Rising Black Wall Street History Center museum has chosen Dr. Raymond Doswell, a man who formerly served as Vice President of the Negro League Baseball Museum in Missouri.
In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Dr. Doswell expressed his desire to bring new programming to the fledgling museum with a focus on fostering conversations that bring people together.
When it comes to reparations for the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the Greenwood community, Dr. Doswell said he personally supports it but doesn’t believe it’s the museum’s place to advocate for it.
“Well I think as an institution it would be important for us not to take a formal position on reparations. I’m open to talking to any of those folks who want to speak directly with me about it,” Dr. Doswell told The Black Wall Street Times.
“I really think that Greenwood Rising can be the conscience of Tulsa in terms of understanding certain issues and facilitating conversations, especially around racial violence,” he added.
Dr. Raymond Doswell: Greenwood Rising’s new executive director
After finishing graduate school at the University of California at Riverside, Dr. Doswell moved to Kansas City, MO in 1995 when the Negro League Baseball Museum was still in its infancy.
“It’s through that graduate work that I learned about public history,” he said. Serving in multiple roles, Dr. Doswell spent the last 10 years as VP at the museum, a proven track record that the Greenwood Rising board of directors were looking for.
Not expecting to be chosen, Dr. Doswell at first gave the Greenwood Rising museum’s search firm a list of names he recommended before they ultimately chose him instead.
In November, he said he visited community institutions in Greenwood, such as the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, the Greenwood Rising Museum, and the controversial Greenwood Chamber of Commerce. He has yet to visit the Greenwood Cultural Center or the Black Wall Street Chamber, two entities that reflect the heart and soul of the community.
Meanwhile, his assertion that the Greenwood Rising museum should not take a position on reparations, which he first iterated in an interview with Public Radio Tulsa, will surely rub many Greenwood residents the wrong way.
Greenwood Rising Black Wall Street History Center brings mixed feelings to survivors, descendants
The very existence of the Greenwood Rising museum caused controversy among survivors and descendants of the 1921 massacre when state leaders funneled $30 million dollars into its creation, which the community doesn’t own and doesn’t directly benefit from financially.
While the City of Tulsa’s Mayor G.T. Bynum paints a picture of unity to the world, his lawyers are actively fighting against a public nuisance lawsuit that seeks restitution for the century-old crime.
In 1921, the city deputized thousands of White mobsters to burn, bomb, shoot and capture hundreds of innocent Black men, women and children of the wealthiest Black business district in U.S. history, while city leaders drew up plans to take over the land.
Adding to the intergenerational trauma, a new documentary titled “Oaklawn” captures the outrage descendants feel after Tulsa refused to gather DNA from the bodies of women and children who were found as part of the mass graves investigation.
Reparations or nah? New director says Black Wall Street museum should stay out of it
For his part, the museum’s outgoing interim director, Phil Armstrong, acknowledged the harm the decision caused while expressing hope that it will ultimately lead to reparations.
“We stand with the community. You’re right, museums are not the final answer. These are not full reparations,” former Interim Director Phil Armstrong told The Black Wall Street last year.
“They’re part of reparations. They’re a part of the repair because education is repair. Making people aware of what happened is repair. But the final piece is funding dollars so that there’s a revitalization of Black businesses, Black homes and a repair of those who were directly harmed. All of this brings attention to that.”
Meanwhile, incoming Executive Director Dr. Raymond Doswell said he’s open to having conversations on whether the museum should take a more vocal role in the push for economic restitution.
His goals include “to have repeat visitor-ship, and that means really cultivating the local community to come and participate more. That will mean, and I think this is one of my strengths, is programs. To give folks a reason to come back, see engaging programming that bridges the history of the tragedy and entrepreneurship with modern topics and speakers.”
Ultimately, Dr. Doswell wants to raise the profile of the museum and its impact on a regional, national and international level.
“We’re gonna do our best to build trust in the community. We want to take Greenwood Rising to the next level in terms of its reach and significance nationally, but that starts at home,” he said. “And it starts with having the community be advocates for what we’re trying to teach.”